Dinning rugby tournament returns to Wingham with seven teams
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
Wednesday, April 26 marked the 15th annual Matthew Dinning Memorial Rugby Tournament at Wingham’s F.E. Madill Secondary School.
Seven teams participated in this year’s competition, travelling from all over Southwestern Ontario. The tournament has been held every year since 2007, excepting two years of COVID-19 cancellations.
This year’s event was the second in a row to be organized by F.E. Madill teacher LeeAnn McDonald Ellis, who doubles as the Junior Boys’ rugby team coach. The COVID-19 years may mean that this year’s players have had less time to learn the sport than previous teams, but one wouldn’t know it from the level of enthusiasm found both on and off the field.
The games were played on a frigid April day, but if the cold temperature was bothering anybody, they didn’t let it show. The crowd dressed for the weather and the players on the field kept the action moving at a brisk pace.
A bundled-up Robyn Burke and her scrum-half son Charlie made their way from Waterloo Region for the tournament. Robyn was as excited that she remembered the name of her son’s position as she was to watch the matches. Fifteen-year-old Charlie is in his second year of rugby, loves teamwork, tackling, and has only experienced one cracked sternum in his career so far.
F.E. Madill made a strong showing, earning wins against the teams from Stratford, Saugeen, and Waterloo-Oxford before moving on to the finals against Kincardine.
More than just a chance to compete in a medieval-era sport, the annual event is a chance to honour one of Wingham’s own. The tournament is named in honour of Matthew Dinning, a young soldier from Wingham who was killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan in April of 2006. The spring of 2006 was a time that marked the beginning of what is now considered the most perilous era of the war for Canadian forces in Kandahar.
Before he was a soldier, Matthew Dinning was a boy, and when he was a boy, he loved to play rugby at F.E. Madill, his alma mater.
A banner was raised at the tournament as a reminder of Corporal Dinning, a soldier who died serving his country. The players
on the field served as a reminder of the boy he was before the war began. Matthew’s parents, Laurie and Lincoln, were both present at the tournament. “Matthew used to run up and down these fields,” Lincoln remembered. “We‘d like to see the rugby continue, and thanks to LeeAnn for keeping it going - it’s the 15th year, and it keeps Matthew’s memory alive.”
Lincoln also didn’t think the day’s low temperature was anything unusual for the rugby players. “They’ve played in snow before,” he exclaimed.
Kincardine emerged victorious for the second consecutive year, defeating F.E. Madill in a competitive final match.